David Rips has literally spent his entire life at Younger Optics. Starting from a small family business, he has helped Younger evolve into the world¡¯s largest privately owned optical lens company. Since becoming president of Younger in 1992, Rips¡¯ emphasis has been in transforming Younger to a worldwide, professionally managed company. Under his leadership, Younger has brought such innovative products to the market as NuPolar polarized lenses and Trilogy lenses. He takes an active role in educating eyecare professionals about the company¡¯s new lenses and lens technologies.
Younger celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2005. What are some of the company¡¯s technological accomplishments you are most proud of?
Well, as a general rule I don¡¯t like to look backwards, because in this business like in any other business, you always need to look forward to your next accomplishment rather than living off your last. But, having said that, the original seamless lens was the precursor for the entire progressive lens business so that was pretty significant. Of course NuPolar completely changed the way polarized lenses are viewed and set a new standard for excellence that everyone is still attempting to catch up to. NuPolar really allowed the second pair to become a reality in our industry.
When did you first see an opportunity in the polarized market and how did Younger come to develop its proprietary NuPolar technology?
We decided in the early ¡¯90s that we wanted to become the world¡¯s leader in the polarized lens business. At the time most of the lenses on the market were being imported from Japan and there were considerable issues with them. Retailers were afraid to actively market these lenses because they often delaminated, were not available in styles or progressives appropriate for the U.S. market, delivery was erratic, especially during the height of the summer season. When we developed NuPolar we wanted to remove these problems and actively market and educate the industry to help polarized lenses grow to their potential. Since the market has increased about 25 times since we started, I think we were somewhat successful in our efforts, but the market can still grow much larger than it currently is. I believe anyone that has a clear pair of eyewear should also have a pair of polarized lenses, so that market share should grow to 50 percent.
Younger was one of the first lens manufacturers to develop a line of lenses, Trilogy, based on PPG¡¯s new Trivex material. What does Trilogy bring to Younger¡¯s product mix? What types of customers have embraced Trilogy most strongly?
Trilogy builds on the thermoset properties of hard resin and the thermoform properties of polycarbonate. I believe this material is only in its infancy and allows a platform for an entire range of products to be based on, particularly where impact strength, great optics and light weight are desired. The characteristics you see with the current Trilogy will only get better though the years as we learn more about this amazing material. Of course rimless frames have been a tremendous boon for Trilogy. Clearly, nothing works as well for rimless as Trilogy. But beyond that, independent practitioners who appreciate the need for excellent optics and impact resistance have been supporters of this material since the beginning.
Younger is about to introduce a new type of sun lens designed specially for drivers. How did this new lens come about and what¡¯s unique about it?
I believe that eyewear is one of the most important inventions in all time. It extends the productive lives of humanity beyond the point where a person¡¯s vision changed. Likewise, sunwear, particularly polarized sunwear have allowed people to maximize their outdoor life. But now, I believe a whole new category of lenses is needed, beyond eyewear and sunwear, a lens which serves the way we now live our outdoor lives, centered around the automobile. This revolutionary change in how we live our lives lead to the development of Drivewear.
Drivewear is to me the most unique and technologically advanced lens ever produced. Outdoors in overcast weather the lens is a high- contrast green/yellow polarizer that maximizes vision under these conditions. Behind the windshield of the car, under bright conditions the lens will darken to a copper color to maximize the ability of the eye to distinguish reds and greens, important attributes for a driving lens. Outdoors, under bright light conditions, the lens will turn to a dark reddish brown, to provide maximum light protection.
Drivewear, accomplishes all of this by the intelligent use of a light, yet still highly efficient polarizer and the combination of photochromic dyes, which are initiated by both the tradition UV light and now by also the use of visible light. No other lens has ever done this before and this makes Drivewear, powered by Transitions and NuPolar, the most remarkable lens ever introduced to the marketplace. Drivewear is patent and trademark protected and I believe it will change our industry.
You¡¯re known to be a hands-on executive. How much direct involvement do you personally have in new product development?
That¡¯s a difficult question. Certainly from the product concept and marketing perspective I am very hands on. Literally I touch every word and picture used in all product support, seminars, ads and anything else concerned with all Younger¡¯s products. But on a deeper product development level I have been very blessed to have both a partner, Tom Balch, and a research and development team second to none in this industry. These are truly the people that can turn vision into reality, which is actually much harder to do than to have the vision in the first place. With Drivewear, not only was it Younger¡¯s research and development team, but also an incredible group of people at Transitions that has made this product possible. Both companies had to overcome enormous technological breakthroughs that had never been accomplished before.